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Overextension in early language development*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 September 2008

Leslie A. Rescorla
Yale University


This research explored overextension in the early vocabularies of six children, followed in a language diary study from 1; 0 to 1; 8. Results indicated that only one-third of the first 75 words acquired by each child were ever overextended. A small set of high-frequency, early acquired words accounted for a disproportionate number of overextensions. Overextensions were classified into three types: categorical overinclusions, analogical overextensions and predicate statements. Four types of information served as the bases for word applications: perceptual, action-functional, affective and contextual. The use of words to denote associative complexes of a well-organized, systematic character was discussed as a characteristic form of early word usage.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1980

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This research was conducted while the author was a Natural Science Foundation and National Institute of Mental Health pre-doctoral fellow. The author wishes to thank William Kessen and Katherine Nelson for their help as advisers, Robert A. Rescorla for his assistance and support throughout the project, and Gail Ross for her comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. The author is also most grateful to the children and mothers who made the study possible. Address for correspondence: Yale Child Study Center, 333 Cedar Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06510.



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